After trying to get out onto the Cook Straight twice earlier on in the year, I finally guessed the weather right this November.
Windy Wellington lives up to its name and I had previously booked trips in early winter that had to be cancelled due to high winds. However, I got the weather right this time and November the 17th was fine and it was a happy and excited group of 12 hopefuls that put their trust in captain Jonno and out into the choppy sea we went.
Every trip is different and on this trip saw heaps and heaps of taiko or Western Black Petrels along with the other usual suspects.
The main culprits were
- Salvin’s Mollymawk
- White-capped Mollymawk
- Black-browed Mollymawk
- Giant Northern Petrel
- Western Black Petrel
- Flesh-footed Shearwater
At times there were so many birds circling the boat it was impossible to single one out, without so many others photobombing my subject.
Too many birds in the frame is not really a reason for complaint but rather a challenge.
This trip sea was lumpy due to a stiff breeze. These are ideal conditions, as the breeze assists the birds to skim across the rises and troughs making for more dramatic images.
Boneywhitefoot Photography pelagic workshops
As far as I know, Boney Whitefoot Photography is the only one to offer pelagic trips specifically designed to photograph these birds in the Lower North Island of New Zealand.
If you live in the North Island and want to see these birds you would normally have to go south to Kaikoura. This means you are in for hefty travel costs, a 2-day trip, including a two-way ferry trip between Islands.
Add overnight accommodation for one or two nights, plus petrol and 8-10 hours of road travel and one can see that what a great opportunity Boney Whitefoot is offering. Not only do you get to photograph these awesome seabirds but you can do so with considerable savings in time and money.
Next year I intend to organise 2-3 trips with one on one training available for those who feel they need some pointers on how to get the best results out on the water.
This will be an additional cost of $50.00 per hour for a maximum of 2 hours tuition on top of the boat hire which gives you 7 hours on the water with the birds.
Certainly one cannot expect lovely shots of these birds simply by pointing a camera at them and hoping for the killer shot. Having been out a few times now I feel have gained enough experience to be able to share with those who wish to take their photography to the next level.
How to show these birds off at their best
The taiko or Westland black-petrel is a master sea fairer and an extraordinary at aerial acrobatics.
The taiko breeds and raises its young on the West coast just north of the town of Greymouth in the South Island. Here Mr or Mrs taiko is caught sliding in sideways against the wind for a precision landing to get his share of the fish frames being fed off the back of the boat which attracts the birds for miles.
The Salvin’s Mollymawk is a medium size but chunky Albatross that can handle anything the weather throws at it. The (flair pose) perfectly shows off the chunkiness and Mr Salvin’s colour scheme.
The White-capped Mollymawk is the largest of the Mollymawk family and from what I have seen the most aggressive out on the sea. With dark eyebrows and yellow tipped beak they are a stunning looking bird. This almost classic pose still shows off its body size perfectly.
This Salvin’s Mollymawk is just showing off gliding alongside the boat knowing that us photographers are going nuts trying to catch him in the viewfinder. An odd pose and somewhat ungainly but then Albatrosses are both majestic and clumsy birds.
There are a number of classic poses the photographer can look for that shows off the true size, especially the wingspan these awesome sea gliders possess. This White-cap is in flare mode.
I think it is the most dramatic pose and one I personally wait to catch with all the seabirds.
I think the Black-browed Mollymawk is the most beautiful of all the Mollymawks.
This Black-brow is caught in a classic diagonal 50/50 pose that shows off its wingspan and overall body shape.
The Black-browed Mollymawk has the most beautiful soft colour’s from the soft eyebrow markings above its eyes to its creamy peach and orange beak. Sometimes these birds glide beside the boat and that’s your perfect opportunity to get a close-up profile shot that will show all those wonderful colour’s
The Giant Northern Petrel is also known as the clown of the open sea as these birds lose all sense of dignity when they visit ships with offal spewing out the back. I call them sea pirates. Wait for them to come close and then shot as soon as you can see that they are focussed. You have no time to track birds like you can on dry land. Snap shooting is the order of the day when on a boat and use may the force be with you.
toroa the Northern Royal Albatross has only a slightly smaller wingspan than its cousin the Southern Royal Albatross. Only the true wandering Albatross has a wider wingspan and even then its only centimetres. In Order to show the full extent of this birds wingspan, the bird has to be some distance away but when it works, it works. As per usual I will wait for the flare a common flying maneuver with these giant birds of the sea so I can capture the full effect for the viewer and show these birds off as the majestic birds that they truly are.
This image is available as a canvas or fine art print
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To see more images or purchase prints of these birds please visit my Pelagic seabird gallery.